How about the sound department? (6 replies and 2 comments)
Hi, 1st post here. Looooooove the podcast!
I work as a recording engineer and sound designer, but for a period of about 4-5 years I also did gigs as a location sound engineer on documentaries, commercials and a few films. It's incredibly hard work and I found sound occupies a strange place in the film and video world. On one hand it's incredibly important to the process, but it feels like it's looked upon as a hassle by the other departments and the production in general. Honestly I feel the sound mixer should be listed right after the cinematographer in the credits of a film. Sacrilege I know, but that's just how I feel. I'd love to hear the 2 of you speak with one of the sound mixers you've worked with over the years. Many camera operators over the years expressed their admiration for the sound mixer's job and the symbiotic relationship those 2 practices need.
Many years ago I was involved in a TV on location shoot in an old mansion when suddenly everybody got up and left the “set“, they all rushed out for lunch. Queueing up at the “greasy spoon” wagon, I asked someone if they knew where Colin was, somebody retorted Colin who? I replied, Colin the soundman! I went back into the mansion and found Colin sitting on a box in the dark at the bottom of the draughty stairs completely hidden from view, still wearing his headphones listening to the playback. I said, lunch has been called didn’t anybody tell you. He replied, no one tells me anything.
I’M NOT IMPORTANT!
This is how soundmen we’re treated. Because they do not move or say anything except ‘sound running’ or ‘aircraft noise’ and ‘somebody farted’, people think that they aren’t doing anything, therefore not important in the hiararchy of the crew “pecking order”. Running recorders, Controlling multi TX and RX units, playing with the controls of the mixing consol, correcting clipping, adjusting levels, applying filters, listening intently on costumes rustling and doing all this while trying to delete ‘Radio Moscow’ can be a bit fraught
So how about a kind word or two for those who have to sit hidden from view in cold and draughty haunted mansions with only a packet of “mints” for company.
Soundmen have one of the shortest careers whether it’s TV/ Film or Music. They are the first to be taken away by those “men in white coats”.
Yes please! Skip Lievsay would be wonderful.
I've actually been meaning to write Skip - so he's on my list.
Peter Kurland would be great to hear from too!
As a sound guy, I realised that to move up from being the sound guy - I had to STOP being the sound guy. And people don't realise how technical and difficult the job is and how hard the training is in the UK and Germany where we have the tradition of the Tonmeister.
If you saw what it takes to be a Tonmeister, you would wonder why anybody bothers to make the effort when the chances of promotion are precisely zero! Unless of course you wise-up and do something else!
I love sound people. To me they quite often seem to be extremely sensitive people, very aware of small but incredibly important details.
Often though, I get so caught up in the imagery and all of the visual aspects of the film that I completely forget about the audio folks. And I do feel a bit guilty because I love them a lot and still I manage to forget about them on set.
I love sitting down with them in the studio and watch them feel out the right kind of ambiance for a scene or conjuring up little sounds and details to bring the audio-visual experience full circle. I guess there is a reason why it is called audio-visual and not visual-audio.
There is something about sound that can be so immediate, so pure and integer. Without it, a movie lacks an important dimension. Perhaps the most important dimension. The timbre of a voice holds more emotion and energy than an image of a facial expression. This is simply the truth. In a sense, sound is more real to me than a visual.
A few times in my life people have asked me if I had to choose between being blind and being deaf I always told them that I'd rather be blind.
Sound physically interacts with your body. Light does too, but it's more subtle than sound. What sound does to your entire body is so obvious. Sound can make you uneasy, it can tickle your brain, it can rush through your spine, it can vibrate your chest and belly. It's a full body experience. It's all around us. Where the image is limited by our field of view, sound is all around us. It creates the atmosphere around us, seen and unseen. It can tell things we can't see.
Sound is amazing!
I wish everybody had your attitude! In our viewing room (which doubles for mastering and post) I just spend a few hundred on a projector and very little on one of those screens that descend. But I spent a shed-load on audio - seven Genelecs and twin subs and bass-traps in all corners.
But I like what you said about ambient sound - I have never been of the opinion that dialogue is important. That's just noises actors make but it should not tell the story. That's what the pictures are there for! But the sound and the score, that should be where the audience gets its clues and cues for what the characters are feeling.
Also, people forget that when the actor leaves the set, he or she has not yet finished the job. In some movies ALL the dialogue is ADR and they have to spend long hours re-recording every word spoken. (And then when the film comes out, they have to do the long schlepp going round all the talk shows on Planet Earth, from Japan to Germany, being asked the same stupid questions by some hair-gel on a stick!)